Homeopathy is a system of medicinal treatment founded by Christian Friedrich Samuel Hahnemann, a German physician. He published a paper in 1796 in which he promulgated his principle that "likes are cured by likes". This principle is known as "Law of Similars". Hahnemann claimed that quinine, a medicine widely used for successful treatment of malaria, produced symptoms of malaria in a healthy person. The patients of malaria were treated with a medicine which created the same symptoms as those created by the disease. The observations with quinine and other medicines led Hahnemann to his "Law of Similars".
Four years later Hahnemann advanced his doctrine of "potentization of dynamization" which stated that medicines in small doses effectively exerted their curative power.
The homeopathic system of treatment is based on these two principles - Law of Similars and Potentization.
Potentization is a process by which medicine is diluted in precise steps and subjected to "succussion" (a vigorous shaking action). This process brings about an energetic change that gives medicines a deeper curative effect. Repeated dilution ensures that the medicine has no toxic effect. This allows homeopathic use of many substances which would be unsafe under normal conditions.
Traditionally homeopathic treatment is done to cure the disorders, not just the symptoms. Any physical and emotional disorder produces certain symptoms in the body. In many cases different ailments produce similar symptoms. As a part of the treatment the medicines are prescribed to eliminate the causes of disease or discomfort. If two patients have similar problems, they may still require different medicines depending upon their habits and many other factors. Medicines of higher potency are generally given only after the cause of the disease is established.
Homeopathy is relatively young - just over 200 years old. New medicines and treatments are constantly being evolved and documented. Such research studies are called "provings". As a result of these research studies, Homeopathy is used in a wide variety of health conditions.
Homeopathic medicines do not work strictly by chemical action. At higher potency the medicine is diluted so much that concentration of original medicine reduces to insignificant level. Yet the medicines not only work, they are more effective at higher potency. "Potentization" process brings energetic change in the medicine. In turn the medicine stimulates the body's defense mechanism to fight the cause of disorder. This approach produces more stable cure as compared to treatment with drugs. Direct chemical action of the drugs often produces harmful side effects. Homeopathic medicines on the other hand have no or little side effects. They are safe and non-toxic.
Two centuries of existence has firmly established homeopathy. It is accepted form of treatment in many parts of the world. However, the theory of homeopathy is inconsistent with known laws of science; therefore the critics often dismiss it as pseudoscience and quackery.
Homeopathy has thrived on the basis of its results. Its medicines have relatively slow but lasting effects. It is not trusted to meet emergency situations, but it is extremely useful in many other situations.